A Visit to Reggio Emillio Approach

In January, leaving the New England winter behind, Rena Osmer and I traveled to Los Angeles to pursue
our interest in the work of Emmi Pikler. Each of us had discovered her ideas and writing though different
avenues, and had become increasingly certain that this approach to understanding infants and very young
children had a valuable contribution to make to Waldorf early childhood teachers. Emmi Pikler’s research
on the early motor development of the child has inspired Helle Heckmann, founder of the Nøkken child
care center in Copenhagen, among others.
A practicing pediatrician in Budapest, Dr. Pikler made an early mark through her deep personal
engagement with the families of her young patients and her advocacy for the child’s freedom to develop
the early motor stages without intervention or unnatural encouragement from well-intentioned adults. It
was said that if one visited a playground in Budapest that the “Pikler babies” could be easily identified
because of their fluid, graceful, and confident physical movements. Out of the recognition of her
experiences in her private practice, she was invited to create an institute that would serve as an orphanage
for young children from birth to three years of age. This she did, and became an intimate observer of the
babies and a thorough researcher. Her studies demonstrated clearly the value of attentive care giving,
unrestricted motor movements, and respect for the child.
A mother who sought out Dr. Pikler as a pediatrician for her own children, Magda Gerber was inspired by
Dr. Pikler to take up child development studies.Magda came to work at the Loczy Institute with Dr.
Pikler, and became a close colleague there. At the outbreak of the Hungarian revolution in the 1950’s, the
Gerbers immigrated to the United States where Magda eventually found herself in southern California.
Here she observed the deep need of parents for support in their parenting responsibilities and she
endeavored to find a way to...